Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the wonderful Pelé, one of the most prodigious and exquisite soccer players in the history of the sport, has passed away. While the eternal debate about who was the best player in history – Maradona, Messi or Pelé – will continue forever, one fact is indisputable: like Pelé there was not and there will be no other.
The legendary figure passed away on December 29 at the age of 82 after being hospitalized for a month at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, where he was receiving treatment for colon cancer.
His daughter Kely Nascimento confirmed the death of the star through his Instagram account with an emotional message: “Everything we are is thanks to you, we love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
The son of a professional soccer player, little Edson was born in the town of Três Corações, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, on October 23, 1940. As a child they called him Dico and he dreamed of being an airplane pilot. He played soccer constantly, using a sock stuffed with newspaper for a ball. He started working at the age of seven, shining boots at a train station.
“Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace”.
His natural talent for soccer caught the attention of his first coaches at the local level. At the age of 15 —in June 1956— he signed a contract with the Santos club, he left his house and moved to the team’s sports city, south of São Paulo. He went to the beach for the first time in his life, testing the ocean water to verify that it was indeed salty, walking in front of the mansions on the coast, not knowing that one day he too would own a palace by the sea. . His teammates nicknamed him “Gasolina” because of his inexhaustible energy. The nickname with which he would become synonymous with soccer arose because some of his friends found him similar to Bilé, a goalkeeper his father had played with. They started calling him Bilé, and the nickname evolved into Pelé.
Pelé scored a goal in his first game with Santos and dedicated his best years to it, despite receiving offers from Europe’s top teams, including $500,000—a fortune at the time—from an Italian club. To safeguard it, President Jânio Quadros presented a ruling announcing that Pelé was a national treasure and therefore could not be exported.
His greatest triumphs came with his country’s national team, with which he made his debut at 16 and won three World Cups —1958, 1962, 1970— being the only player in history to do so. In addition, his 77 goals in 92 games place him as the top scorer for the Brazilian team. A record that will hardly be matched in the future.
Pelé’s best goals
Beyond the numbers, Pelé’s technique, speed and natural instincts were almost supernatural. “He was the only player who exceeded the limits of logic,” said Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff. His punching was lethal with both legs, and he knew how to cover the ball, infuriating the opposing team’s defenders and driving the ball across the pitch until scoring miraculous goals. He was also known for his generosity and good treatment towards his rivals.